The Great Westminster Clock Proposal
The Great Westminster Clock is a cherished monument and
perhaps the world's most special clock. Its 15 ton bell,
"Big Ben", is a familiar chime. And its 660 pound
pendulum swings back and forth every two seconds.
The Clock is known for its accuracy of about "a second
per week". But the weather is causing significant
variation. As with most clocks, any change in pressure,
temperature or humidity causes the rate to drift by
seconds per week.
To compensate for these constant changes, the "Clock men"
must put a penny on (or take a penny off ) to alter the
rate by about 4.6 tenths of a second per day. But this only resets the clock and does not improove its accuracy. As of
2009, some of the old coins were replaced by a larger 5
Pound Coin. But re-setting the clock remains a constant
chore. The Great clock does not need these jerry-rigged
additions. It could run true - in all weather.
In 2016 I proposed a special restoration which would make
the clock run accurately --the perfection of Big Ben.
Changes in the weather can be compensated for by
surprisingly simple adjustments to the clock.
These are subtle. But they are in keeping with the
clock's historic nature and are designed to be "right"
for the antique mechanism. They can properly correct the
clock's (non compensating) design.
Currently the clock corrects for temperature. (although
slowly) This could be improved to compensate for people
coming and going which also affects temperature. People
breathe. This causes humidity changes which affect the
going. The building can be climate controlled. But
visitors still make an impact. Footfalls and street
traffic can also cause error. These can be partly
alleviated by rubber flooring and smooth paving. Even
the drive train of the clock has minor use criteria which
can improve precision.
The major need is to correct for pressure changes. It is
impractical to control pressure in a building with doors
and windows. But pressure can be compensated.
Normally a clock's pendulum is isosyncronus, such that
changes in the amplitude of swing cause no difference in
timing. However, changes in the atmosphere disrupt that
The sister clock at trinity college in Cambridge has
tested some pressure correction methods. But they are
not historic to the clock. And there are issues of
precise adjustment. So new methods were needed.
To correct 'Big Ben' I have developed unique and special
methods which are familiar to the
clock's historic place in time. Already sophisticated
computers measure performance and are a great aid in
monitoring accuracy. But a fine clock needs to compensate
for the weather. And the basic adjustments need to permit
highly accurate tuning. A pennyweight is hardly
sufficient to set the tempo. One might as well leave a
pint on the pendulum and it could be
set more quickly - and more often. Of course the clock is
meticulously maintained and operated, but its fundamental
tuning remains incomplete.
In my Career I have designed or invented a number of
superlative things valued in billions. So it is
reasonable to accept that I have also found the right
methods for the Westminster Clock. I am happy to say that
such adjustments to the clock would correct the going
with exceeding precision. Physics is perfect. So the
clock should be perfect.
It is an element of praise that we should make the
effort. The quantum wave of our world will be a little
more perfect. And the implementation will not change the
historic nature of the clock mechanism.
One could argue that any change would be non historic.
But why add pennies, electric motors and computer
monitoring? These are in use already. Yet we want to
maintain the original escapement design. And I can.
The weather is a significant factor in the clock's
accuracy. But elegant and subtle adjustments can be made
to the clock which will keep the timing in line with
modern electric clocks. The Clock men will still meet to
discuss a tweak, now and then. But from Day to Sunny
day, the clock will run accurately. It will be
Even the procession of the Sun and moon cause gravity
effects which alter the clock by
many milliseconds each day. These become visible with
well adjusted clocks when pressure and humidity are
compensated. I have designed the gravity corrections as
well. They are extremely precise.
The corrections for the full suite of pressure,
temperature, humidity (and gravity),
will make the Great clock a special image of hope in our
time. It seems the more technology we have, the more
dangerous and unpredictable the world becomes.
My proposal to perfect Westminster Clock is just the
opposite. It is engaging science and politics to make
something better. Not just paint and rhetoric, but
a marvolus facination and a system that rings true for all
to enjoy. It will be mroe than a beautiful clock. It will be
a clock with something uniquely amazing inside.
Naturally, if I publish my techniques, they would be
copied immediately. This paper already circumscribes them
and presents the amazing opportunity. I am asking a large
fee for the remarkable work. It will be a delight. And
it is only a fraction of the value to society.
British Tourism is 250 Billion per year. And there are at
least ten major monuments. Lets say business and social
travel, is 90% of tourism. That estimates Big Ben to be
a hefty 2.5 Billion per year institution. The value of
the clock will simply double. Though a judicious estimate
gives about 4-5% perceptive improvement.
Even half that (a 2% improvement) is, happily, a 50
Million (Per Year) value. This is certain.
For now I will leave it to enthusiasts to contemplate
these precise methods. They are very subtle. They require
the right science, applied the right way. One needs a
special familiarity with math, physics, horology.
Hopefully decision makers will honor this sincere
request. It is a wonderful humanitarian effort. It will
be a comfort to behold. Truly it's Noblesse meets
Obligue. The results will be beautiful.
I can guarantee the clock will easily multiply
attendance, bolster education and enhance
tourism significantly. But that's not really the point.
The enjoyable thing about clocks is
knowing they work just right. And that's priceless.
Notes on nay sayers:
I have all but explained the work here. But even the
best clock people might doubt the
certainty of this effort. I can assure that the physics
is unassailable. There are already Harrison clocks which
operate within a second every hundred days. The Great
clock should be tuned to a similar degree of quality. But
how can the client know I will deliver what I claim, in
the way that I claim? I hope my other work helps to
answer that conundrum. My finding the age of the Shroud
or inventing safer smoking should light the way.
The Artistic Side:
When the Franklin Institute hired me to create a feature
Robot for their atrium in 2000, they were promised an 8
degree of freedom robot with 6 sonar channels and two
arms which would mimic visitors arm positions, in six
weeks. I don't think they expected it to be done. But
it was on time and on budget. And two days early. There
were 50 pages of code, 12 songs, twin 3D
sonar systems, all custom electronics, dual processors
and lively internal lighting for
panache'. I simply had the key knowledge to do it. The
Westminster clock project is much the
same. The Physics is unassailable.
I hope that such works are reassuring. I will admit the
Robot project was 40 days dawn to dusk, impossibly
laborious and virtually un-repeatable. But the clock
will have maintenance and crafts support to assist in
some aspects. My principle roll is engineering and
implementation. But my care for the great clock will be
on spec, in character and will work superbly.
Notes on the "Short Synchronome Clock:
The Westminster Clock has a natural rival in the Shortt
It is virtually perfect and the most accurate mechanical
pendulum clock because it suspends a 'free' pendulum in a
vacuum and propels it by a second 'sympathetic' pendulum
which only is optically coupled and controlled to pulse
the drive pendulum every 30 swings (only if needed).
This mechanism is accurate to 200 Micro-Seconds (1/5
millisecond) per day. (about 1/40th of the influence of
the Sun and Moon on the clock) Other mechanical clocks
have also achieved similar high accuracy with careful
The Westminster clock has some excellent advantages in
its massive pendulum and custom gravity escapement. So
it's expected results will be very close.
As a business person, I propose things which are a
benifit to patrons. And I look forward to this very
special public work.